Well, what with travelling and teaching etc., I haven’t posted in quite a while, so this is what I’ve been up to.
Travelled to St. John’s Newfoundland to play at the Feile Seamus Creagh, and spent a great few days there. The connection is that Seamus spent about 5 years living in St. John’s from 1987 to 1992, and apart from knowing Seamus well from when I arrived in Cork in 1976, I recorded a CD with him and Con Fada Ó Drisceoil , “It’s No Secret” in 2001. I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Newfoundland a good few times since my initial visit in 2003, and have made good friends there among the music ( and angling ) community.
Initiailly I was asked up to play at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival, since I was “next door” at the Boxwood flute camp that year, and I think this year was my eighth or ninth visit... and hopefully not the last.
Directly off the plane from St. John’s and onto the train to Westport to do my annual teaching gig at Scoil Acla, where I meet up with Harry Bradley and Liam O’Connor again, my co-conspirators from Bordeaux. No burning pianos this time, it’s too wet!
Scoil Acla, held every year on Achill Island Co. Mayo, is a great summer school, and is going from strength to strength. This year the teachers were myself, Harry Bradley, Peter Molloy ( yes, son of that Molloy!), Emer Mayock, and Maureen McGrattan.
Shortly after I come back from Achill, sad news of the death of Leslie Bingham, one the major figures in the revival of traditional flute playing in the north of Ireland.
When I was just begining to become aware of the flute in traditional music, Leslie was one of the few players that were around in Belfast, constantly encouraging to young players, and in the days when flutes were like hen’s teeth both giving me the loan of the first wooden flute that I ever played, and advising Dessie Wilkinson and myself before our first flute buying trip to Dublin.
We had heard the CCÉ had some flutes for sale at their headquarters in Dublin, which in those days was in Harcourt St. I sold my guitar and we headed off. We both bought German flutes for £45, which in today’s money was somewhere around €300-€350. Given the fact that you can buy a similar flute today for more like €250, you can see that flutes weren’t cheap back in the day, as some think.
Leslie had told us to look out for a type of flute called a Rudall and Rose...that was the first time I ever heard those words...but of course what we found there was a bunch of old fairly battered German flutes. I also remember that the person we dealt with in Harcourt St. was Mary Bergin.
After all the galivanting ( more of it this week with 7 visiting musicians from Newfoundland getting their own back) I’ll really have to get the nose against the grindstone in the coming weeks.
The first flute with the new style keys is nearly finished, so I hope to post some pictures of it soon.